PETA plans 'fish empathy center' for historic Michigan lighthouses
Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News
Grand Haven's iconic Lake Michigan lighthouses are the prime location sought by an animal rights group for its anti-fishing campaign headquarters.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has applied through a federal program to take over the towering red structures and lighted catwalk that are frequently photographed for dramatic sunsets, thick winter ice and crashing waves.
The area also gets nearly 2 million annual visitors including thousands of anglers casting lines into the Grand River channel and heading out in boats for trophy Great Lakes salmon.
We want to renovate the Grand Haven lights as a memorial to the billions of fish killed annually by sport fishermen, as well as for their flesh (commercial fishing industry)," said Lindsey Rajt, manager of PETA's campaigns department. "We also want to make it a fun and educational place."
Tentative PETA plans call for an education center in the steel and cement-clad house-like structure at the end of the long pier, where visitors would learn about the lives of fish. There also would be a café, offering vegetarian fare including "faux fish."
Visitors 12 and under to the pier that adjoins the Grand Haven State Park beachfront
campground would receive a free plush toy fish with the slogan "Fish Are Friends, Not Food."
Signs would likely announce the lighthouse as home of PETA's Fish Empathy Center.
Locals are dumbfounded by the proposal.
"It doesn't make any sense to me at all," Capt. Dan Tebo said Tuesday, a mile offshore in his Grand Haven-based fishing charter boat the D'Ann Marie. "I just don't understand where they are coming from. We fish here for the fish. That's what God gave them to us for."
Under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Program, nonprofit organizations have been encouraged to apply for ownership of lighthouses throughout the nation. The program is aimed at removing the cost of historic preservation from the Coast Guard. New owners must prove to the lighthouses' current keeper -- the National Parks Service -- their financial ability to maintain buildings and make them available to the public for education.
PETA also has applied to take over three more lighthouses: the Robbins Reef light off Bayonne, N.J., the fortress-like Punta Tuna Lighthouse in Puerto Rico, and the massive structure at the end of the pier in Kewaunee, Wis.
But Rajt, who is a West Michigan native, said she's most hopeful about the Grand Haven location because she knows its potential as a premier Great Lakes tourism destination.
Authorities in Grand Haven don't believe the National Park Service will allow the politicization of such a public property.
"We are a destination known for our beautiful beaches, our lighthouses, catwalk, pier and boardwalk. It is what makes Grand Haven what we are. We are protective about that," said Marci Cisneros, executive director of tourism for the Grand Haven Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I don't think PETA is who Washington had in mind for this."
Rajt said PETA understands the historic nature of Grand Haven's lighthouses so changes and the addition of signage would be kept to a minimum.
A decision isn't expected for months from the National Parks Service.
On a personal note....can you imagine going to your local Friday night 'FAUX FISH FRY"???? Has PETA started a movement against the inhuman treatment of crabs, crawdads, crayfish, lobster, scallops, shrimp??? WHERE DOES IT END??? Soon there will be PETOT organizations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Trees(there goes the neighborhood when there are no wooden homes), which will branch off for PETOG, People for the Ethical Treatment of Grass (can't mow your grass but you can turn some goats and sheep out as long as you promise not to milk them to make cheese!).
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